Finding Your Self-Confidence
Some years ago I declared myself as ‘lacking in self-confidence’. Not confident as a leader, not confident approaching girls, not confident speaking in public - equaled a not self-confident person - for life. That was me and that was final and it was my little secret. The fact that in some areas of my life I was very confident, such as in adventure sports, meeting new people or travelling solo, wasn’t allowed to spoil the story.
My experience as a coach has shown me that many others view themselves in a similar way. I am frequently asked by clients, ‘how can I find self-confidence?’ In recent years I have grown hugely in self-confidence and would like to share what I have learned.
The fear of not being good enough does not belong to you
One of the most common fears that all humans face, is the fear of ‘not being good enough’. This is a thought that many of us might know as a gremlin or saboteur. For one person that might mean not being sexy enough, for another, not being intelligent enough, or a whole host of flavours of ‘not enough.’
But what’s most important to realise is that ‘not being good enough’, is not your thought, but humanity’s. It’s been around for thousands of years. Imagine these thoughts as invisible electronic waves that fly around the world. Our bodies, acting like antennae, pick them up. We then take possession of them and treat them as ours, and only ours.
We need to understand that our brains are programmed for survival. Although these thoughts may have served us in our past, they don’t continue to do so. If we give them more attention than they are worth, they prevent us from achieving success and happiness.
The trick is not to try and get rid of them, because that’s unlikely to happen, but to build our awareness of them. The more intimately we know our saboteurs, the less power they will have over us.
Make sure you are not mistaking a lack of self-confidence with a lack of skill, motivation or experience.
The word confidence wasn’t always serving me and wasn’t always accurate. How could I expect to be confident about something if I hadn’t actually given it a good try? Likewise, how could I be confident about something if I didn’t really want it, or hadn’t appreciated the skill required to master it? Self-confidence is about having faith in yourself and that faith needs to come from somewhere.
Now, I am pretty confident that I can climb a tree, but have I always been confident of this? And will I always be confident of this? No.
At one stage I wouldn’t have had the skill or experience to climb a tree. And I’m not sure in years to come whether I will still have the motivation to climb a tree.
We have to ask ourselves what meaning we are giving our situation and whether that empowers us or not. What is it that we actually want to happen?
Even so, underlying all this is something more important.
The question is not ‘how can I be more confident?’ but ‘where can I embrace uncertainty?’
We don’t own self-confidence; we need to live it. We continually have to step into the unknown and admit to ourselves that we are uncertain, but have faith that it’s all going to be ok.
How can we be authentic without being vulnerable? How can we lead others and ourselves with confidence, if we are not authentic? As with many things in our lives, contrast gives meaning. We can’t have night without day, pleasure without pain, success without failure. Likewise, we can’t have confidence without vulnerability and uncertainty. They give rise to each other and compliment each other. To know and appreciate confidence is to know and appreciate uncertainty and vice versa.
I look back at my life and realise I was rejecting parts of myself that I was afraid to bring into the world. Truly confident people aren’t afraid to uncover themselves. Through self-acceptance they bring all of themselves into the world and in so doing step into their true power.
I had to stop looking at failure as a problem. I had to stop looking at myself as the problem. I came to realise that myself and my failures are sacred possessions that I cannot afford to reject or avoid. So I had to give up the façade; it wasn’t serving me.
There is nothing to ‘fix’; there is no reason to judge. It’s not about improving ourselves, but meeting ourselves and accepting it all, the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’. When we do this everything that emerges comes from a place of resonance, authenticity and authority. Any other way takes too much energy and courage and is neither sustainable nor believable.
Change your expectation for intention and appreciation
Certainty is a powerful force and confident people possess it. But there is a subtle yet important distinction to make here of where that certainty should lie. For example, when I am thinking of approaching a beautiful girl to chat her up, my imagination, which is one of my most powerful possessions as a human being, screws me over. I expect the worst outcome - a cold shoulder, being laughed at, saying the ‘wrong thing’, being slapped etc. To try and counter this carnage of self-sabotage, I try to expect the best outcome – she laughs at an amazing joke I crack, I fascinate her with my stories and then one thing leads to another and she’s my girlfriend and its awesome. But this is also self-sabotage.
My imagination’s accomplice is expectation, and my certainty lies in the outcome that I cannot control or predict. Neither imagination nor expectation is grounded in reality, and furthermore, both act as a lifeline to my saboteurs. My expectation has success or failure attached to it. I am expecting the conversation with the girl to unfold in a certain way and that causes unnecessary fear. The fear is rooted in the future and so in that sense what I fear isn’t real. Almost by its definition expectation does not embrace uncertainty and little room is available to appreciate what is evolving in the moment.
The powerful force of imagination needs to be used as an ally, but with intention as its accomplice, instead of expectation. With intention the focus is not on the result but the process. I need not worry if I achieve it or not. I imagine the outcome that I want, which in this instance could be a girlfriend that I am happy to be with. I connect to why this is important and then, I let it go and stay curious as to what happens along the way. I cannot be certain of an outcome and so I am not attached to meeting a particular girl in a particular way. But I can be certain of my intention. This way I am embracing both certainty and uncertainty in a way that empowers me and sets me up for any eventuality.
If I can also change expectation for appreciation it instantly gives me a more empowering perspective. With my focus on appreciation, I shift from what could go wrong to what is already going right. With genuine gratitude and appreciation and the awareness that they bring, I am able to surrender to the potential consequences and the sensation of fear. Only when I embrace fear, rather than resist it, am I able to move through it.
Believe or not we do this on a daily basis. We are almost constantly in a state of surrender to what might happen. Every time we step into a car or a plane, we understand what could go wrong, but we do it anyway.
So we must understand that our thoughts don’t belong to us, we must check whether we have the skill, motivation and experience, we must embrace uncertainty and we must change expectation for intention and appreciation. However, none of these make a blind bit of difference if we don’t take action.
Confidence is not a prerequisite to take an uncertain path, but a result of taking an uncertain path. When we take action, whether it results in failure or success, we become aware of something new and we start to take responsibility of where we are headed. This leads to more self-confidence.